People interrupt way too frequently. Men and women both do it; it may be in different ways, at different times, and for different reasons, but we all interrupt. Interrupting might just be the biggest barrier to communication because when an interruption happens, communication stops; communication requires not only speaking, but listening, too.
When we interrupt, we're not listening. We've started talking (either out loud or inside our head). And when we interrupt, it triggers a fight or flight mechanism in our partner, which has them interrupt us back (the start of a fight) or has them shut down (flight).
You might think you're listening, but look for yourself and see if any of this fits. Are you:
* waiting for your turn to talk?
* gearing up to make your point?
* disputing what they're saying in your head?
* getting ready to tell them why they're wrong/why you're right?
* playing commentary in your head about what they're talking about?
* remembering all the other times you've already heard what they are saying?
* realizing you already know what they're going to say?
* remembering something related that you want to tell them about?
* thinking you're missing a vital piece of the story that you have to ask about, right now?
* knowing what they should do?
* knowing how to solve their problem?
* recognizing they're getting part of the story wrong so you have to correct them?
* waiting for the pause that signals it's your turn (to pounce...)?
A lot of things might be happening, but listening is not among them. And because nobody's listening (since we are all doing it), nobody feels heard. This can cause our voices to raise, and our tempers to flare, or we might stop talking entirely. Communication and connection are no longer happening.
What does interrupting cost us?
Interrupting makes us feel disconnected, unrealted, frustrated, annoyed, and it creates problems that were not there to begin with. It makes us unwilling to trust someone with our thoughts and feelings, so we're less likely to share them with each other. We end up causing the opposite of we intend, and we don't even know it.
I like to imagine conversations that are interrupted as a tennis match, with both sides trying to hit the ball before it gets to them!Imagine instead what could happen if you stopped interrupting people. What if you thought of all your conversations as a tennis ball being volleyed back and forth. When you wait for the ball to get to you before you try to hit it is easier, and more effective. When you giving your partners a chance to say everything they have to say, without interruption, things will turn around in your relationships, and your ability to connect through communication will increase.
You won't feel heard unless they feel heard. Go ahead, give it a try...
Caren Field (MA, LLPC) is a professional individual and couples counselor with a Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy She has been studying human nature since 1998 and has been in private practice since 2007. Her latest project, a workshop called Set Yourself Free™ is designed to teach people how to heal themselves from emotional injures, large and small, and how to set themselves free!
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